ONCE upon a time, Sauvignon Blanc was all I drank. Like Jon Snow, I knew nothing and it didn’t bother me one bit.
Then I learned more about wine and expanded my interest. To be fair, the South African wine market grew as well, and there was – is – much more to drink now compared to the early 1990s. Along the way, Sauvignon Blanc and I have not remained that friendly. It happens. We drift apart, often for no particular reason.
So it’s no longer my favourite, but with certain terms and conditions, I can happily be in the same room. Sometimes I still even buy Sauvignon Blanc on purpose. Which is what I plan to do when I go to Franschhoek this Friday, because the Vrede en Lust Artisan range 2016 Blanc Fumé (wooded) is rather nice. It was one of the 20 award-winning wines on offer at a media event to celebrate International Sauvignon Blanc Day (May 3) and at the same time to announce some big SB news.
The press release (because obviously I wasn’t taking notes): “South Africa’s champion for Sauvignon Blanc, one of the country’s most widely planted wine grape varieties, has undergone a transformation that brings momentum to its international success. Formerly known as the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group (SBIG), Sauvignon Blanc South Africa not only announce a new name but took the opportunity to ring in a string of changes.
“The organisation originally established to foster excellence and promote the cultivar has amongst others appointed a new marketing and support agency; revamped its logo and website; and, engaged the services of a well-known specialist to expand its knowledge centre.
“Sauvignon Blanc SA chairperson RJ Botha said the change has been a long-time coming. ‘The former title as SBIG didn’t express strongly enough what we needed it to. Now anyone in the wine world will know what we’re about and where we’re from. The change has injected fresh energy to our cause. For starters, the conversation around Sauvignon Blanc Day 2020 and Concours Mondial du Sauvignon 2021 has already begun and we’re very excited about the prospects.’
“Sauvignon Blanc is the third most widely-planted white grape variety in the Cape Winelands and among the most extensive in New World wine countries. It is SA’s most popular grape variety – in total 40% of all white wine sales are Sauvignon Blanc, the most of all varieties. This in mind, Sauvignon Blanc SA came about to promote the quality of South African Sauvignon Blanc locally and internationally.
“The organisation’s task has further been bolstered by the appointment of Agri-Expo, the long-standing promotion and marketing agency for the agriculture sector, to take care of day-to-day operations. ‘The previous management committee laid a solid foundation with invaluable support over the past eight years from people like promotions dynamo Elsabe Ferreira,’ said Botha. ‘The new team will build on this success with an eye to creating even more opportunity for our members and South African Sauvignon Blanc.’
“Among the members’ new benefits will be the specialist insights of Dr Carien Coetzee from Basic Wine, who has been contracted to write a series of exclusive technical reports. In addition to having a PhD Agric Oenology from the University of Stellenbosch, her experience includes attending the International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration in New Zealand and serving on the tasting panel for Concours Mondial du Sauvignon international wine competition.
“Sauvignon SA’s transformation furthermore includes a re-designed website, integrated with social media platforms to maximise the conversation around the variety.
“Anyone can become a member of Sauvignon Blanc SA to access the benefits of pooled expert knowledge. Members’ networking and information exchanges include technical seminars and workshops, selection and training of specialist tasting panels for wine competitions, and early-warning marketing opportunities and events.
“From a public perspective, most people get to know the organisation through its most prominent annual FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 competition, which was started in 2007 to reward producers making wines of true distinction. Cape Wine Master Dr Winifred Bowman, an experienced judge and commentator, is the convenor of the panel. The championship’s important dates for this year are the opening for entries at end July; judging from September 3 to 6; and, the gala awards evening on Wednesday, October 9.”
The very good reason I wasn’t taking notes was because I had made sure I was sitting next to Malu Copeland, who knows a heck of a lot more about wine than I do, and I don’t get to see her nearly enough. I happily followed her suggestions for tastings as we explored the complex range of wines within this one variety, which can sometimes be quite surprising. My advice: never say you don’t like a certain wine. Be open. They’re not all the same.
The event was held at Janse & Co in Kloof Street. Its charcoal exterior doesn’t stand out nor look very inviting, and I know I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t particularly impressed by the food, so I’m not even going to post those photos because they won’t do anyone any favours. The best things about the day were the wonderful wines, and catching up with so many familiar faces, Malu’s being the one I love best.
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